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Pet owners in southern Joburg are urged to get their animals vaccinated against rabies. A dog was found to be carrying the disease in Lenasia South.
FREE rabies shots will be given to pets in a number of southern Johannesburg suburbs this week, following a case of the disease diagnosed in Lenasia South at the end of February.

Already, the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development has conducted a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the area where the diagnosed dog was found in Lenasia, according to Makoko Lekola, the department’s media liaison officer.

The presence of rabies in a highly populated area is considered an extremely dangerous public health issue, he explains. The department will be running the free vaccination programme on 9 and 10 March, from 1pm to 6pm.

On the first day, people can take their pets to: Culembeek School in Witpoortjie, the Mindalore Supermarket parking area or the Mindalore tennis courts in Mindalore, and the playgrounds in Princess.

On 10 March, the vaccination team will move to: the Extension 8 Umhlanga playgrounds; Davidsonville Park in Davidsonville; and the open park in Lindhaven.

It is important for people to get medical attention immediately should they be bitten by a pet – “dogs and cats to be specific” – warns Lekola.

Post-exposure treatment will prevent the development of the disease. If a person is bitten by an animal, they must immediately get a vaccination and a tetanus injection, and make sure the wound is cleaned and disinfected. “Once a symptom has [appeared] it’s too late for treatment,” he adds.

Bites from any wild animal or pet should be taken seriously and medical treatment must be sought.

Rabies is a virus affecting the spinal cord and the area of the brain responsible for breathing and swallowing. According to the World Health Organisation, once symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is nearly always fatal. It is spread through bites or scratches from infected animals.

Symptoms vary and include: behavioural changes, a flu-like sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and depression. They can include insomnia, the overproduction of saliva, and aggressiveness as well as paralysis. It takes between 20 and 60 days for symptoms to manifest.

A rabid animal can be spotted by the excessive saliva from its mouth. People are advised to never touch or caress a strange injured or sick animal. People who live in rural areas are more at risk, as their pets may come to contact with wild animals such as the black-backed jackal or the bat-eared fox.

For more information contact Makoko Lekola on 011 355 1347 or 072 274 3692 or email him on Makoko.lekola@gauteng.gov.za.

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